SOCIAL INFLUENCE

Bystander Intervention

Bystander Intervention

This refers to members of the public getting involved in situations where their help is needed. Many studies have been done on what factors influence if a
person gets involved or not. Here are four of them:

Latane and Darley (1968) wanted to know what difference being with other people makes to how people respond in an emergency. Participants were asked to fill in a questionnaire either on their own or as a group of three in the corner of the room. Pretty soon smoke started pouring in. 75 per cent of those who were on their own reported the smoke compared to 38 per cent of those who were sat as part of a group.

    • Conclusions and limitations The conclusion was that if you are around other people you are less likely to respond to an emergency. Once again this was a laboratory experiment and may lack ecological validity.
    • Explanations One explanation for people behaving in this way is the diffusion of responsibility. In an emergency situation an individual who is on his own knows he has to act. In a group, however, each individual will either hope or assume that someone else in the group will react. As part of a group you feel as if your level of responsibility is smaller. Another explanation is that a person’s judgement of a situation will be influenced by the reactions of those around him. If everyone around him appears to be calm then he may not regard the situation to be an emergency.

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Bateson et al. (1983) wanted to know if spotting a victim you identified more closely with would influence how likely you are to help him. He did this by getting participants to witness a woman receiving electric shocks. In some cases the participant was encouraged to believe that the woman was like the participant, in other cases they were led to believe that she wasn’t at all like them. They were then asked if they would like to lessen the woman’s suffering by swapping places with her. The participants led to believe they were similar to her were most likely to trade places.

Conclusion and limitations: The more empathy we feel for someone, the more distress we feel when that person suffers.

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Piliavin (1972) Wanted to know if the appearance of the victim would influence if and how quickly someone comes to their aid. He used an actor who pretended to collapse on a train. Each time he collapsed he had a different appearance. On one occasion he was carrying a walking stick, on another he had a large scar on his face and on another he gave the impression of being drunk. The speed and frequency with which people helped decreased with each of these three appearances.

    • Conclusion and limitations: The appearance of someone in need does influence whether that person will receive help as well as how quickly that help is given. As this was in a real environment there will have been many uncontrollable variables which may have affected the result.
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Schroeder et al. (1995) wanted to understand more closely why witnesses often just stand by and fail to help when it is clearly needed. They did this by studying the findings of research conducted in this field. They found they could offer another reason other than indifference as to why witnesses didn’t provide help where it was required. They found that although bystanders often felt distressed by the situation and wanted to help, they often believed that someone else was better able or more qualified to help than themselves.